Access to quality healthcare, health information, and the ability to have open and honest conversations with medical professionals is vital to all people but is even more important to the elder population. Part of our mission at Elder Initiative @ William Way is to advocate for equitable access to healthcare for our elders because it unfortunately is not always available to them. For elder LGBT folks, prejudice may present even more barriers to healthcare.
“I had a doctor walk out of the examining room when he found out I was gay,” said John Desko. We recently spoke with John, a member of our EI@WW community, about his experiences. “He just turned around and walked out and didn’t come back.”
He continued: “We have well-trained physicians who have those types of blocks in their minds, and they’re treating people, but they might not diagnose or care for a patient properly. Whether they be gay or whatever, it’s scary. Do you feel that you can confide in somebody like that? There needs to be a certain level of empathy for healthcare workers to be able to treat everyone.”
John became involved with Elder Initiative @ William Way by attending our Doctor Is In programs with Jefferson Health. At these programs, medical professionals present to groups of LGBTQ elders to discuss health issues, answer questions and share moments of openness in a comfortable and inviting environment.
“It was good to get [involved with] this group of professional people who were open to the gay community and answer questions. It’s something that was long overdue and well-appreciated,” John said.
Although his involvement with the Doctor Is In program began before the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition to virtual programs has continued to help the community. For those who may not be able to attend, each session is recorded and uploaded to the Elder Initiative @ William Way website.
In addition to health education programming, EI @ WW has also continued to host weekly lunch social hours for elders who wish to virtually share a sandwich, some soup, and catch up with friends. These drop-ins were initially intended to keep folks connected during the early days of the pandemic but are still going strong more than one hundred weeks later. John has been a big fan of these calls, and he doesn’t believe that he has missed one in two years:
“I’d say it’s a real blast! We get along really well. It’s almost like going to a party, and it has really helped tremendously, at least for me.”
As the COVID-19 forced most of us into isolation, EI @ WW sought ways to keep our community feeling supported and appreciated. Creating opportunities for social interactions over Zoom has helped many participants stay engaged and connected. The ability to remain close to their peers without being able to see them in person became a vital part of their weekly routine.
“It really makes a difference. It’s almost like sitting down with close friends or family and just having a nice discussion. What TV shows you binge-watched or the latest movie that you’ve seen it. It’s a great program. We need more stuff like that. The community needs it. It wasn’t too many years ago that we didn’t have anything like that at all. It makes us feel like we’re not alone.”
The Elder Initiative @ William Way is hosting our annual A Cause For Applause benefit on Thursday, June 9, 2022. In a virtual celebration with a live in-person audience, we will gather to celebrate the work of our organization and honor members and organizations that support our mission in assuring that LGBT older adults have the rights and opportunities to live vibrant lives. We invite you to join us at A Cause For Applause 2022!